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CDC Director: Masks may be better guaranteed COVID-19 protection than vaccines

The director of the CDC told lawmakers Wednesday that there is clear scientific evidence masks work and they are our best defense currently against coronavirus.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told lawmakers Wednesday that face masks remain the "most important powerful public health tool" against the coronavirus pandemic and may even provide better protection than a vaccine would.

“We have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defense,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said. “I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine.”  

Redfield explained that a potential coronavirus vaccine may only have an immune response 70% of the time that protects a person against COVID-19. 

"If I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine’s not going to protect me. This face mask will,” Redfield said while holding up his surgical face mask. 

He urged Americans, particularly those between 18 and 25 years old, to take personal responsibility and embrace wearing face masks. 

The CDC director has previously stated that U.S. can get the coronavirus under control in just 4-12 weeks if nearly everyone wears masks, washes hands regularly and practices social distancing 

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Earlier in the day, the government outlined its plan to make vaccines for COVID-19 available for free to all Americans, assuming a safe and effective shot is developed. 

While testifying before lawmakers, Redfield rejected questions over whether the government’s timeline for states to be ready for a vaccine by Nov. 1 was politically motivated.

Redfield told the Senate Appropriations Committee that the “scientific integrity” of his agency's output “has not been compromised and it will not be compromised under my watch.”

Credit: AP
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield holds up his mask as he speaks at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on a "Review of Coronavirus Response Efforts" on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Although Trump asserted Tuesday that a vaccine could be three to four weeks away, Redfield, made clear to Congress that any version available this year would be in “very limited supply.” The shot wouldn’t be broadly available to most of the U.S. population until the summer of 2021, he estimated.

Trump's press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, quickly repeated the president's version at the White House: “We do believe that it will be widely available by the end of the year.”